HORT*3270 Medicinal Plants

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2019 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course will focus on the application of recent biotechnology advances to elucidate the physiology, biochemistry, and conservation biology of medicinal plants for enhancing their efficacy in preventing and curing human disease. 


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

Specific Learning Objectives:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Analyze literature on traditional knowledge of the role of plants and related alternate medicine practices for the treatment of chronic diseases and improvement of health conditions in view of the new evidence provided by modern science and technologies.
  2. Review scientific papers on concepts, technologies, business, and regulatory perspectives on medicinal plant production, efficacy and conservation.
  3. Integrate and organize scientific reports and present the findings in a seminar format.
  4. Analyze, integrate, and organize scientific literature on the role and importance of medicinal plants in improving human health and welfare and community development in different cultures.


Lecture Content:

Medicinal plants are used around the world for healing conditions of the body and mind. Despite their importance as a form of primary or secondary health care in the developing and developed world, concern towards medicinal plant cultivation, safety, efficacy, and public acceptance remains high. This course will explore the following interdisciplinary aspects of medicinal plants.

  1. The evolution of medicinal plants and plant based medicine in major traditional medical systems of the world: India (Ayurveda), China (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and the Western world (Natural Health Products).
  2. International trade of medicinal plants and the regulation of their use including:  safety, quality, consistency, and adulteration.
  3. Application of biotechnologies such as micropropagation, genetic engineering, controlled environment systems, as well as, the use of DNA barcoding and analytical chemistry during the production of plant medicines.
  4. Importance and current status of the conservation of medicinal plant species.
  5. Cultural and social aspects of medicinal plants and the scientific basis of traditional practices.


Lecture Content:

Course Outline, Schedule, Philosophy of Teaching

Traditional knowledge and plant medicine

Plant medicines: Origin and major pathways

Plant medicines: Biosynthesis and storage

Regulations for natural health products

Herbal Medicine: Safety, quality, and efficacy

Technology: Chemical screening

Technology: Plant tissue culture

Technology: Controlled environment production

Medicinal plant conservation

Medicinal plant collection: Laws and ethics

Winter Break

Guest Lecture

Antioxidant-rich plants

Psychoactive plants

Spiritual Botany: Plants and chemistry of consciousness

Instructions and guidelines

Seminars 1 & 2

Seminars 3 & 4

Seminars 5 & 6

Seminars 7 & 8

Seminars 9 & 10

Course evaluation;  Research paper instructions

Questions and Answers

*Topic order are subject to change.

Labs & Seminars:

There are no labs scheduled for this course.


Seminars will be presented by the students in groups of three on the topics approved by the instructor. Seminars can be presented as PowerPoint presentations or videos or a combination of both. The topics may include the following:

Research paper topics – Issues, Technologies, Medical conditions, and Plants

  • Unique growth requirements and yield parameters of medicinal plants
  • Traditional cultivation of medicinal plants: Quality and Consistency
  • Current regulatory requirements and GMP of medicinal plant products
  • Tissue culture and controlled environment production of medicinal plants
  • Bioreactor technology for large-scale medicinal plant production
  • Cell cultures for medicinal compound production
  • Genetic engineering of medicinal plants and organs (hairy roots)
  • Elicitation techniques for enhanced medicinal metabolite synthesis
  • Plants as production systems for vaccines
  • Clinical trials using plant-based medicines
  • Medicinal plant biodiversity: International perspectives on conservation
  • Biotechnology tools for finding new medicines from nature
  • Re-examination of rituals based on medicinal plants in light of modern science
  • International projects using medicinal plants: malaria, malnutrition, and tuberculosis.
  • Intellectual property of medicinal plant knowledge and biopiracy
  • Monitoring adulteration, substitution and adverse reactions from medicinal plants.
  • Medical Conditions: Cardiovascular, Immunity, Neurological, Diabetes, Malaria, Cancer, Pain, Reproductive health, depression, infectious diseases 
  • Medical Systems: Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, First Nations/Native American medicine, European herbalism, or any other form of medicinal plant knowledge 
  • Plant Profile: Description of a plant with documented medicinal properties

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark (%) Learning Outcomes Assessed
Abstract 10%  

Mid-term exam



Seminar (Multimedia)


1, 3

Final Research Paper



Final examination:

There is no final exam scheduled for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:

References will be provided during lectures. The students will access these research papers from journals and texts from the library.

Lab Manual:


Other Resources:


Field Trips:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

All exams and assignments are due on dates indicated. 10% mark will be reduced for each day of late submission. All submissions will be made by email as word files attachment.

Course Policy on Group Work:

Research paper project in this course may be conducted in groups of 3-5 students depending on class enrolment. All students in the group will receive the same mark for both paper as well as seminar presentation. Students must report to the instructor in writing if a group member is not fulfilling his/her assigned task.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of lectures is expressly forbidden.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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